Orlando is one of the world’s top destinations for conventions, tradeshows, and annual gatherings, welcoming over 1.4 million attendees per year. Regional, national and international companies trust Orlando hotels and venues to provide a safe and professional environment for their meetings, and convention security is a vital part of making that happen. Let’s take a look at some of the risks being monitored by security experts as we go into 2020.
According to Brad Mayne, President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), homegrown extremists throughout the world are focused on anywhere the public gathers, especially considering the fact that public venues have been designed for public accessibility for the communities they serve. However, according to Joan Morgan, Director of Analytic Personnel at iJet International, the likelihood that a terrorist incident will take place is minimal. In fact, more concerning issues might be protests outside of the venue, a fire, power outage, or petty crime at the venue or on the street.
Regardless of the magnitude of the threat, though, it’s always imperative that convention organizers, security personnel, and event attendees are prepared for any potential problems that may arise during a convention. When commissioning a venue, you should conduct your own risk assessment for the venue as well as for your specific event. Factors evaluated should include the number of attendees, the type of attendees, the kind of material being discussed and the size of the venue, among many other pieces of information. This assessment should be determined prior to the event with enough time to implement the plan during the move-in portion of the schedule. Based on the assessment, the venue manager and event manager need to collectively determine a security plan and implementation that is reasonable for the event. “If you are concerned,” says Saul Shanagher, director at beTravelwise, “speak to (the security team) and ask them to put your mind at ease over any issues or worries you have.”
That being said, according to Shanagher, background risks at the destination are more likely to affect attendees than risks associated with the convention itself. “Health, security, and travel risks should all be identified, and the travel risk-management program should put measures in place to address these,” he says. “Attendees will, therefore, be better prepared and protected, minimizing any risk associated with the convention through greater awareness and confidence.”
In any case, the details of the aforementioned security plan should be clearly communicated to attendees. A security lead for the venue should be appointed, and all attendees should know who that individual is. According to Morgan, “The security lead should have a prearranged communication plan with attendees in the event of an emergency. Attendees should program an emergency contact number into their phone and understand in advance when and under what circumstances they should do a safety check-in with their company’s security lead for the convention.”
Here are some easy rules attendees should be advised to follow at any convention: Remove badges outside the convention center and avoid displaying convention bags or materials, so they don’t draw unnecessary attention to themselves. Use taxis where appropriate to reduce time spent in public. Only share information with those they want as a business connection and share only as much information as they have to. (This is a big one as spearphishing—that is, personalized, very-convincing phishing attacks aimed at extracting more sensitive data from individuals—accounts for 91% of hacker attacks.) Delete sensitive apps, such as banking apps, social networks, etc. Log out of all apps after they’re done. Remain wary of suspicious emails and websites. Back up files. Properly dispose of all trip confirmation emails and boarding passes. Turn on their phone’s GPS locator and “wipe” function to help locate the phone if it’s stolen and wipe their data clean. Most importantly, be aware of their surroundings.
You can also keep your attendees safe by offering a free, secure WiFi to ensure attendees don’t try to connect to alternative free networks that may not be secure. (Make clear to your attendees which network is the secure one offered by your organization as criminals have been known to use convincing names.) Additionally, consider offering identity protection to your association members as an added benefit. It’s a great way to build loyalty by demonstrating your commitment to members and differentiating yourself from competing associations. “Large events with open WiFi networks represent easy targets for hackers and online criminals, and all organizers must do everything possible to prevent confidential information from falling into malicious hands,” says Deborah Sexton, president, and CEO of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). Cybersecurity is just as important as the physical safety of attendees.
Event planners bringing groups to Orlando should take all of these risks into account and retain the services of an experienced convention security firm in Orlando, such as Apex Security. While all of these risks may make attendees hesitant to take part in a large convention, the truth is that thousands of conventions take place every year across the globe without major incident. Furthermore, almost all potential problems can be mitigated and even eliminated by developing a comprehensive security and safety plan. As long as the proper steps are taken by all involved, your Orlando convention will be safe, secure, and productive for all participants.